By Aaron Humes: Last Thursday for almost four and a half hours, those in favour of and against the revised proposal from Waterloo/Port of Belize Limited went back and forth on the latest environmental and social impact assessment at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel.
It is a necessary part of the process and one Waterloo has gone through before, but does it satisfy what can truly be described as consultation? Not according to NGO Senator Janelle Chanona, who told Channel 7 News’ program Sunup on Monday, “I will agree to disagree that that was public consultation.”
The format – after a late start – saw an opening presentation followed by questions from the floor that she said were “timed and limited to what the responses weren’t,” so that there was not much of a conversation that would satisfy questioners, many of whom had already taken a side.
Chanona concluded, “This format is broken, is not working, and we’ve known that and it’s tragic… when we talk about the EIA regulations, clearly figuring out how we’re going to define consultation is key. Otherwise, it just comes across as a checkbox, had a public meeting, check.”
The PBL project contemplates that as part of the project, they would need to dredge 7.5 million cubic meters of the coastline in front of the Port’s compound. That’s the equivalent of 200 full school buses, 50 football fields, or half of the Blue Hole.
Valdemar Andrade – Executive Director of the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA) – notes that both the written comments – the deadline for which in Waterloo’s case in September 14 – and oral participation have to be taken into consideration, citing a technical question on the use of geotechnical curtains for the dredging and that even the 7.5 million cubic meters is an estimate – and taxpayers do pay, as with the Fort Street Tourism Village.